Over 200 tortoises found in cargo ship
Taken from this week's issue
OVER 200 tortoises were found hidden inside boxes on a cargo ship that docked at Gazimağusa Port.
It is believed the 230 “Greek tortoises” (Testudo graeca), also known commonly as the spur-thighed tortoise, were taken from their natural habitat in Turkey, smuggled illegally and were to be sold in South Cyprus.
It has not yet been determined who brought the tortoises to the TRNC, according to a report by Cyprus Today’s sister newspaper Kıbrıs on Thursday. They were turned over to Taşkent Nature Park (TNP) eight days ago by the Veterinary Office, the report said.
The report said the tortoises, which can live up to 80 to 100 years, are a threatened species.
One of the tortoises died shortly after going to the TNP. It is presumed that it “suffocated” after “fighting hunger and lack of oxygen” during the voyage. The conditions in which the tortoises were transported were described by the paper as “disgraceful”.
TNP officials have placed the tortoises in special insulation for three months. The park contacted Turkey’s Nature Conservation and National Parks (DKMP) to coordinate sending the tortoises after isolation for release into their natural environment. If the DKMP will not take the tortoises then once the isolation process has been completed they will be provided with a habitat in the TNP.
TNP director Kemal Basat said on social media that the tortoises were in a bag without air, on top of one another and in their own excrement.
“Through our research, we have determined that the tortoises were taken from their natural habitat in Turkey,” he said.
“Taking these tortoises out of the country has been prohibited for the past 20 years. They have been banned from entering our country for the last 10 years.
“As they had no flat surface to be placed on, the tortoises’ shells had wounds. One of the tortoises died shortly after arriving at the park. It was very small so we could not perform an autopsy but we think it suffocated.
“It died two to three days after its liver collapsed due to a lack of oxygen. The metabolism of tortoises is very slow, they can live for three to four months without food. However, lack of food for a prolonged length of time will cause their internal organs to collapse.
“The turtles we received were checked one by one, the necessary tests were run, their biometric data was collected and they have been numbered.
“Ticks have been detected on some of the tortoises. Like the tortoises, these ticks were also examined.
“After the turtles were bathed in disinfectant, they were placed in special isolation for three months. During this period we will be able to detect any disease in the tortoises.
“Blood tests and faeces will be examined under a microscope and we will take care of them as needed.”
Mr Basat also drew attention to the fact that animal traffickers frequently kidnap squirrels and tortoises from their nature habitats and that these animals die during capture and transportation.